Screening Room: 2 - Brandon Colvin's FRAMES / by Samuel B. Prime

I met Brandon Colvin in 2008, following a University of Notre Dame academic film conference at which we were both featured presenters. I presented an essay originally written for Jacqueline Stewart's phenomenal Spike Lee course, still to this day one of the best classes I've ever taken. However, because of another obligation back at Northwestern, I left the conference before hearing Brandon's presentation. We didn't meet at the conference, but rather afterward when he reached out via Facebook to say that he enjoyed my presentation on Lee's A Huey P. Newton Story (2001). In turn, he sent me his paper on Robert Bresson, entitled "Illusory Grace: The Influence of Theology on Bressonian Realism." With this simple exchange of ideas about cinema, a friendship was born.

I mention how we met and Brandon's essay because I think that Bresson's work (and therein, his approach to filmmaking) informs his first feature film, Frames (2012). Maybe not so much Bresson's spiritualism, but rather his curiously controlled realism - of the sort that was deliberately accidental without establishing  an argument for authorial intent. There are also touches of architectural film masters like Michael Haneke, who tends to frame people, places, things at a distance so as to embrace the natural (as in, sans production design accoutrement) geometry of what lies within a scene. Haneke's Caché hovers down conspicuous hallways without touching the walls and emphasizes spectatorship by way of its removed camera placement or subject position, and so too Frames is keenly aware of its camera's proximity to its characters (and because of this, also aware of the frankly multitudinous relationships between fiction, truth, seeing via a kind of lens, and seeing for oneself). 

Frames is polysemic. Its title is perfect. Taken in, the viewer (or, speaking for myself as a viewer) begins to see all the ways in which frames are present in the narrative - the way that they comprise the narrative, how it all takes place within a frame (re: aspect ratio), and the way in which each person who watches the film inevitably frames (!) the experience in relation to something personal or a cinematic precursor. You can't really talk about this film without using the word, even if only to mention its title. Importantly, this isn't a gag: it is sincere cinema at play. 

Brandon Colvin's Frames is available to watch on LA Ciné Salon from now until May 25th, 2014, at 10pm (Pac). 

Colvin's second feature film, Sabbaticalis currently touring the film festival circuit. More info available here.

- Samuel B. Prime

Founder, LA Ciné Salon